The last serious ad blocking report I saw was PageFair’s from 2017. Its main findings:
- 615 million devices now use adblock
- 11% of the global internet population is blocking ads on the web
In January 2016, GlobalWebIndex said “37% of mobile users … say they’ve blocked ads on their mobile within the last month.” I put that together with Statista’s 2017 claim that there were then more than 4.6 billion mobile phone users in the world, meaning 1.7 billion people were blocking ads by that time.
Now GlobalWebIndex‘s Global Ad-Blocking Behavior report says 47% of us are blocking ads now. It also says, “As a younger and more engaged audience, ad-blockers also are much more likely to be paying subscribers and consumers. Ad-free premium services are especially attractive.” Which is pretty close to Don Marti‘s long-standing claim that readers who protect their privacy are more valuable than readers who don’t.
And now there is also this, from Internet World Stats:
That’s less than Statista said in 2016: “In 2019 the number of mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion.” But that was a 2016 estimate, so let’s play with InternetWorldStats’ lower 2019 number.
Since GlobalWebIndex says 47% of us are using ad blockers, and Internet World Stats says there were 4,312,982,270 Internet users by the end of last year, that says more than 2,027,101.667 people are now blocking ads worldwide.
So, we might generalize, more than two billion people are blocking ads today.
Perspective: back in 2015, we were already calling ad blocking The biggest boycott in human history. And that was when the number was just “approaching 200 million.”
If we combine that Internet World Stats total users number with GlobalWebIndex’s breakouts of listed reasons why those surveyed block ads, you get these:
- 1,638,933,263, or 38%, listed Ads contain viruses or bugs
- 1,121,375,390, or 26%, listed Ads might compromise my online privacy, and
- 948,856,099, or 22%, listed Stop ads being personalized.
That’s a pretty big market for privacy tools and services. But are the numbers reliable?
Well, I rely on Dr. Augustine Fou (@acfou) to think and work more deeply and knowingly than I’ve done so far here. Looking at the above, he tweets, “I dispute these findings. ASKING people if they used an ad blocker in the past month is COMPLETELY inaccurate and inconsistent with people who ACTUALLY USE ad blockers regularly.” Also, “Source: GlobalWebIndex Q3 2018 Base: 93,803 internet users aged 16-64, among which were 42,078 respondents who have used an ad-blocker in the past month”. Then, “Are you going to take numbers extrapolated from 42,078 respondents and extrapolate that to the entire world? that would NOT be OK.” And, “Desktop ad blocking in the U.S. measured directly on sites which humans visit is in the 8 – 19% range. Bots must also be scrubbed because bots do not block ads and will skew ad blocking rates lower, if not removed.” On that last tweet he points to his own research, published this month. Then he adds, “your point about this being the “biggest boycott in human history” is still valid. But the numbers from that ad blocking study should not be used.”
So what can we use? Are all our sources (other than Augustine’s) reliable?
PageFair is hasn’t produced ad blocking numbers since 2017, and even then its business was fighting ad blocking, which meant it had a stake in research outcome. The same was true for ClarityRay when it produced the earliest ad blocking numbers I saw, back in 2012. (ClarityRay was acquired by Yahoo in 2014.) Global Web Index appears to be serious, but I still take Augustine’s main point: it’s better to know what people actually do with their devices than to ask them what they do. And their sample base does seem too small for global extrapolations across billions of people. And Internet World Stats appears to be a product of the Miniwatts Marketing Group, whose website is currently a blank WordPress placeholder.
Statista seems serious, but Ad blocking user penetration rate in the United States from 2014 to 2020 is behind a paywall. Still, they do expose this much: “The statistic presents data on ad blocking user penetration rate in the United States from 2014 to 2020. It was found that 25.2 percent of U.S. internet users blocked ads on their connected devices in 2018. This figure is projected to grow to 27.5 percent in 2020.”
Meaning that the market is, at the very least, sending a massive message.
I invite all those mentioned above to weigh in with whatever they’ve got. I’ll update this accordingly. Thanks.